Have you heard of Christmas in November? Have you been?
Christmas in November at the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge is a getaway like no other! It’s 4 days of Christmas – in November. Ha! Part holiday party, food conference, food festival and national park getaway – at Christmas in November you eat like royalty, are treated like royalty, learn holiday recipes from some of Canada’s best chefs and celebrate some of the best parts of the holidays like being with family and friends (new and old), the food, the wine, the decor, entertainment, and more!
It’s truly such a special event to participate in.
This year (2016), there are 1,500 people registered over 10 days (3 packages to choose from – first weekend, mid-week, or final weekend).
While Christmas in November’s audience tends to be predominantly female (lots of mom/daughters/grandmothers, girlfriends or sister groups), I’ve seen more and more men attend each year that I’ve been there. In fact, this year there are 100 men attending including Mike – who if possible, loves Christmas in November even more than I do!
Below, you can check out my tweets from this weekend, see my tips/guide to make the most of your Christmas in November experience, view more photos, and enter my giveaway to win a bunch of great cook books and other CIN swag!
Here are just a few notes from the sessions I attended with Chef Vikram Vij, Mairlyn Smith, Mark McEwan, Emily Richards and Elizabeth Baird, Michael Olson and Jan Hansen!
- There are 7 Signature Alberta Foods: beef, Saskatoon berries, canola, bison, honey, red fife wheat and root vegetables like beets, turnips and potatoes. Did you know: Alberta is the 5th largest producer of honey in the world
- Masala is a blend of different spices, cooked with onions, ginger and garlic. Think of masalas like tomato sauce. It’s the key to Indian food
- When making masalas, do it beforehand (like on a weekend) and in bigger batches, then pull out as needed when you’re cooking throughout the week
- When cooking gnocchi, you really need to make sure your water is boiling. The bubbling of the water keeps the gnocchi from sticking to the bottom
- Octopus heads are too tough to eat – it’s not enjoyable. Even the professionals have tried to make it work and it doesn’t
- When cooking duck breast, be sure to score the skin – this keeps it from shrinking as much during cooking. You always want to use high heat when cooking duck
- Loin chops are actually cheaper than ribs but for some reason North America is obsessed with ribs even though they have less meat – whereas loins have more meat
- The best and simplest BBQ sauce you’ll ever make? Mix equal parts hot dog mustard, cheap white vinegar and brown sugar
- If your spices are older than a year, they’ve lost their freshness and you should toss ‘em – otherwise your cooking won’t have the same punch to it
- The smaller you dice your ingredients, the more flavour there is
- Always measure at eye level
- Use parchment paper to roll out any type of dough – less flour you use means the product will be less dry in the end and parchment paper ensures no sticking
- When you’re creaming butter in baking, you want the butter to develop little horned tips – that’s how you know it’s ready
Christmas in November Guide (2016)
- Be flexible with your schedule
When you register for Christmas in November, you’re registering for different chef/food/drink craft/decor sessions similar to a conference. On your arrival day, there’s a welcome party then your second and third days includes three session options plus breakfast, lunch, dinner per day. Your fourth/departure day also includes one session in the morning, plus brunch. The days can become quite jam-packed.
Know that although you registered for one session, swapping sessions/attending others is totally OK too. You might find people rave about a session that you weren’t initially signed up for, it’s okay to mix and match.
It’s also okay not to schedule yourself into every session slot! You’re paying for the sessions but you’re also paying for a nice getaway – take some time to rest and relax in the super picturesque setting of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge.
- Make friends with chefs, Fairmont JPL staff, your table mates
Tom, James, Yannick – these three were just a few of the Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge staffers we made friends with. They’re so attentive and so friendly, it’s hard not to. It’s also hard not to make friends with the table mates you’re assigned to! And the chefs – some of these chefs are really famous – you might find it intimidating to approach them outside of their sessions but all of the chef/presenters I’ve met at Christmas in November have been so sweet, so welcoming, so open to chatting.
Make friends with the people you meet during your Christmas in November package, they’re such a big part of the memories you’ll make!
- Bring your best, Christmassiest attire
Not sure what to wear to Christmas in November? Bring your best, Christmassiest (that’s a word) attire! The 2nd and 3rd day dinners are pretty swanky – you’d be more out of place if you weren’t dressed up. The 3rd day dinner (Gala Dinner) also features Christmas photos with Santa Claus so there’s another reason to look your best! On your arrival day/welcome party, you’re also encouraged to wear a Silly Christmas Sweater and some people really go all out! Have fun with it!
- Visit other sessions when yours is done to get more samples
This is my “pro” Christmas in November tip. As if all the included meals you’re getting isn’t enough for food, I love it when a session wraps up and you head over to the other session rooms to see what samples they’ve got going on. Anna and Michael Olson’s Passion for Pork session usually has a ton of leftovers at the end of the session.
Other sessions share samples throughout – not necessarily all at the end, so ask other people what the sample situation is like in the sessions they attend to chart your own maximizing-food-intake-plan, lol.
- Try the vegetarian option to switch things up a bit
Speaking of all that food – another “pro tip” is that you can request a vegetarian meal for your lunch or dinner just to have a lighter option. This is usually most handy for people who are working all 10 days at Christmas in November (including the chef/presenters) so to alleviate some of the ‘Groundhog Day’ feeling, and also heavy food feeling, substituting your meal for a vegetarian option can be nice.
All the lunch/dinner meals at Christmas in November are centered around Taste Alberta proteins like Alberta Chicken, Alberta Pork, Alberta Beef and Alberta Turkey (who are Christmas in November sponsors) and they’re incredible but let’s say you’re with a friend/spouse or bigger group – having a few order the vegetarian option is a nice way to ‘try it all’ :)
- Keep the party going after dinner
Christmas in November days start early and can end real late – again it’s up to you how much you want to jam pack your day but if you’re looking for some more fun after dinner (and the dance floor), you’ve got some options!
New this year you’ve got the Man Cabin to check out. After dinner, people headed to the Man Cabin to play foosball, air hockey, drink and mingle. Lots of people head out to the lodge lobby and bar to keep the party going. There’s no reason you can’t invite people back to your cabin for your own late night party (in fact, there’s a group of ladies who come every year that apparently host a pretty famed after-dinner party! Mike attended while I was sleeping this year, lol).
So that’s just a few things I’d suggest to help you make the most of your CIN weekend. You can also check out my 2015 tips here (which I still think are valid – but I tried to share a few different ones this year).
And now – for the giveaway!
** GIVEAWAY **
Enter to win a Christmas in November swag bag featuring:
- Three cook books written by Christmas in November chefs:
- Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge Christmas in November-branded Swell water bottle
- Knob Creek whiskey glass
- Alberta Milk milk glass
- Alberta Canola citrus juicer
- Alberta Turkey Producers board
- Duchess Bake Shop cookie cutter
- Christmas in November-branded apron
- Leave a comment on this post, telling me what you love most about Christmas and what aspect of Christmas in November you’re most interested in!
- Note: you must leave a comment on this post in order to qualify to win!
- Follow me on Twitter (@lindork)
- Follow Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on Twitter (@fairmontJPL)
- Follow me on Instagram (@lindork)
- Follow Fairmont Jasper Park Lodge on Instagram (@fairmontJPL)
- Like my Facebook Page: Lindork – Linda Hoang
- Share this tweet:
- Christmas in November #JasperCIN @fairmontJPL looks amazing! Hope I win @lindork’s #cookbook giveaway. http://bit.ly/2fxCFUg #yeg #yegfood
- Note: You can tweet this daily for more entries!
Comments are moderated so if yours doesn’t appear right away, don’t worry.
Please let me know which entries you’ve done in the comments too.
I’ll pick a random winner out of all entries after the contest closes on Friday, November 18, 2016.
If you’re interested in seeing even more photos from my Christmas in November weekend, here’s a gallery!
Photos from Christmas in November
Check out the Gastropost Christmas in November website here for more recipes and recaps from other Gastropost ambassadors too!
Disclaimer: I will always provide my 100% honest opinion on this blog. My stay at Christmas in November was complimentary as I was a guest of Postmedia / acting as a Gastropost ambassador.